Taiwan at the Tiger's Mouth: How Much Autonomy Left to Pursue Peace Avoid War

United Daily News Editorial, May 30, 2020


After Communist China passed national security legislation on Hong Kong, and the United States responded that it considers Hong Kong unable to maintain a high degree of autonomy as grounds for sanctions and cancelation of current special economic and trade treatment. This laid a dub in the fragile global economy suffered pandemic. Relative to the cautious responses of other countries, President Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan rushed to call for the suspension of the Act Governing Hong Kong and Macao Relations, and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu even disclosed that "Taiwan could be China's next target. It may take some military action against Taiwan." The conflicts between the two superpowers resulted in a precarious situation for not only Hong Kong but also Taiwan. The Tsai administration only knows how to oil the gun for the United States, without any plan for retreat. It is simply unwise.


The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic changed the world order, the United States and China competed to lead in the new situation, relations further deteriorated. The two sides wrestled at the World Health Assembly (WHA). The United States failed to inflict punishment on Beijing, it resorted to banning Huawei to expand science and technology war. The White House issued new strategic guidelines for China, which was regarded as a declaration of the "new Cold War." In particular, President Donald Trump forced the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to build a factory in the United States. This was a starting move for the United States to form a critical military industry and information communication supply chain. Matching with a ban on sales to China, the United States fully monopolizes key technologies and builds up a high-tech iron curtain.


The United States has taken a series of measures which are all "getting Taiwan to check China" strategies; Beijing responded by the "Hong Kong version of the National Security Law" aiming at foreign forces. Took advantage of the rampant pandemic, China dealt resolutely with the issue of Hong Kong. In addition to preparing for the coming election of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive, it also plans to cope with the new Cold War so as to prevent Hong Kong from becoming a bargaining chip for President Trump's trade war against China.


Hong Kong 's biggest impact on China is financial security. Since August last year, the United States has linked the Hong Kong issue to trade negotiations. The legislation required regular reviews of the special treatment for Hong Kong. This affects Hong Kong 's financial stability and may trigger a currency war. At that time, the anti-repatriation-to-China campaign had caused attacks on banks and paralyzed finances in Hong Kong, which made Beijing realized that Hong Kong would be a breach in the U.S.-China rivalry. The fourth plenary session of the Communist Party resolved to take precautionary measures.


After President Trump accused China of spreading the epidemic, Secretary of State Pompeo commented on Hong Kong 's autonomy five times, delayed the submission of the annual report under the "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act", and targeted instead at the Hong Kong issue. To counter this, Beijing threw out the purported national security legislation, appeared to be prepared for the worst. The New York Times described the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law as Chinese President Xi Jinping's political gamble. In fact, the United States is the biggest foreign beneficiary of Hong Kong's economic and trade, and President Trump's sanctions are also gambles.


Facing Huawei and Hong Kong issues, Taiwan has long been on the side of the United States. President Tsai won re-election by her anti-China stance, but if she continues to allow President Trump to increase the pressure on the leverage, it may not benefit, the cross-strait relations may worsen. In fact, the manufacturing conditions of the United States has weakened after a large number of manufacturing industries moved outwards. To wage the technological war, it is necessary to press Taiwan to join rebuilding its industrial chain. After TSMC, how many upstream and downstream players does Taiwan have to contribute to enabling President Trump to achieve his greatness? TSMC's move to the United States to set up a factory is "buying insurance" from the United States, it cannot be sure of the Chinese market. Washington announced a second wave of Huawei bans, it was tantamount to castrate the companies concerned as they lost their autonomy. Once denied the freedom to choose the supply chain and the market, Taiwan's electronics foundry industry will lose its competitiveness. Then, how would President Tsai's "six core strategic industries" have the potential for development?


The industrial policies of the Tsai administration have gradually lost its autonomy due to the U.S.-China rivalry. Its policy toward Hong Kong is even more self-destructive. Taiwan blindly follows the United States. If the Act Governing Hong Kong and Macao Relations are suspended as raised, the cross-strait buffer zone that the previous governments have worked hard to establish will be lost. To show pro-American and loyal, the ruling party would not hesitate to close the other door from Taiwan to the mainland, which is a move of self-injury and reduces space for maneuver. After the suspension of the Act Governing Hong Kong and Macao Relations, all the investment, residency, and personnel exchanges of Hong Kong and Macao people will subject to the ”Act Governing Cross-Strait Relations.” Apart from the refugee problem, Taiwan will lose the opportunity to attract foreign capital and financial talents. The enterprises and sea-air transportation businesses using Hong Kong entrepot will become political orphans.


Whether Hong Kong's status as an international transfer hub can be continued, is based on the design of the Chinese Special Administrative Region, rather than the United States' Hong Kong Relations Act and special trade treatment. Except for the White House successfully mobilizes a global boycott, countries can continue to trade freely in Hong Kong as long as the Basic Law exists. Ironically, China  has not destroyed the judiciary and markets, and it is President Trump who is precluding  everyone from doing business. Once the U.S. sanctions lead to financial turmoil, can the Tsai administration guarantee that Taiwan will emerge unscathed?


To seek re-election, President Trump's offensive against China has continued relentlessly. Taiwan worked hard to conform and gradually lost its autonomy. Apropos the issue of participation in the WHA, the Trump administration only provided lip service, and Taiwan had no capacity for introspection. It offered TSMC to the United States and even paid the United States at the cost of the Taiwan-Hong Kong relationship. A government which lacks independence may not be aware that it is being reduced to a pawn by the United States!


From: https://udn.com/news/story/7338/4600749

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